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TECHNOLOGY FEATURE

Google Gaga


L. A. Vess | November 09, 2005

If you haven't done it yet, you should. Beware, however, once you begin, you may never be able to stop. Doing it is addictive, fun and sometimes feels a bit naughty. But you just have to Google. Yes, the term that once used to simply refer to an Internet search engine has now become an almost legitimate verb. Google this, Google that. Google your blind date, Google yourself. You just never know what you may find...

Hello, my name is L. A. and I am a Google Addict. I Google everyone. I just cannot help myself.

Strangely enough, I'm not a person who usually goes poking around into people's private spaces. I don't read diaries, raid my partner's hard drive for suspect e-mails or open my friends' medicine cabinets. Those things are private - and none of my business. However, my hyper-ethical privacy code does not seem to apply to online information. My brain rationalizes this by thinking that if something is on the Internet (and not behind a password), then it is in the "public" domain - and therefore I am fully allowed to look at it.

Okay, that might not really be fair. After all, many people (including myself) can't always prevent exactly what gets posted about them on the Net. For instance, if you work at a state or government institution, more than likely, your name and job title are going to get posted online by whoever you are working for. Maybe you don't want everyone to know that you work as a secretary for the Office of Toilet Efficiency Research - but you just can't do anything about it. I certainly can't do anything about the fact that I posted stupidly insane amounts of babble on former presidential candidate Howard Dean's blog – which now comes up in droves every time my name is Googled. Believe me, I've tried to get those posts removed – no dice.

Of course, like many other writers (and other folk), my primary addiction is to Google myself. This actually serves an important purpose – identity theft prevention. It is important to know what information about yourself is available on the Net – and work to have anything too personal removed – like your address, phone number or other identifying information. So, Google can be used as a real, important tool to make sure people aren't ripping you off, posting false information about you, or using your name without permission.

However, I admit that I don't always use Google in such a positive manner. I Google my ex's – just so that I can feel better that they have less Google results than I do. And, of course, so that I can read up on what they are doing, and hopefully feel even better when I discover they aren't doing anything all that interesting. Unfortunately, that can backfire when you discover that they DO have more Google results than you, and they ARE doing way more interesting things than you ever imagined. That's a downer. Because, of course, for some of us, Google is a Power Status marker. The more Google results you have – the cooler you are – the more well known you are on the World Wide Web. And you certianly don't want your ex to be higher on the Google totem pole than you!

I also Google my friends. Mostly because I like to suprise them with strange information I find out about them online. And also because I'm just curious about what they are up to. Some of them Google me back, and it can be fun to see who will find something new about the other person first. Google can also be a great way to find old friends that you've lost track of. Of course, in the modern day, when I can't find someone on Google somewhere – I suddenly develop a fear that they may be dead. Because isn't everyone on Google?

Beyond basic Googling – which includes searching by name, alias, e-mail and other facts and figures – there are other Google goodies that I just can't do without. Google News – keeps me updated on all the latest breaking news stories. Google Images – let's me find that perfect wallpaper of Tori Amos without wading through 500 web sites. Google Groups – shows me interesting discussion groups where I can vent endlessly about the evil Bush empire. Google Earth – it is so weird to see your apartment building from space. Google Answers – a fun place to laugh hysterically at the questions posed by people wanting to know about various things – and willing to pay someone else to find the answers. (The gay section is especially weird.) The ways to Google are virtually endless.

Will Googling make you a better person? Probably not. Will Googling make your life better? Doubtful. Google can, however, satisfy just a little bit of that internal voyeor that you have locked away? You betcha. So go on, do it. Google someone today. You know you want to. – Gay Link Content


Other L.A. Vess articles
What gay men don't know about lesbians [01/11/2005]